Proposed water quality rules for Ohio farmers

Comment period closes tomorrow for proposed water quality rules affecting Ohio farmers.

The draft legislation, reported last week by Ohio’s Country Journal and Farm and Dairy aims to improve the health of our state’s waterways by increasing regulation on the use of nutrients in agriculture.

While the proposed legislation lacks detail, as reported by Ohio’s Country Journal, it does outline the elements that could impact Ohio farmers most.

Fertilizer Applicator Certification Program: Farmers applying nutrients to more than 10 acres of land would need to be certified by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). The ODA would also be granted the authority to develop and implement this program.

Watershed Classification System: This would permit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to classify watersheds of concern as either critical natural resource areas or watersheds in distress. Sources and causes of ag pollution would then be analyzed which would result in the development of management plans to address the findings. 

The key difference for farmers with land in areas classified as watersheds in distress would be the obligation to follow approved operation and nutrient management plans as devised by the ODNR. Whereas farmers in critical natural resource areas will be encouraged to participate voluntarily in these measures.

Ag pollution re-defined: The meaning of ag pollutants would expand beyond the current definition of ‘sediment, manure or materials attached to sediment’ to include nutrients containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. In effect, giving authority to ODNR to devise and enforce nutrient management plans for all kinds of fertilizer.

As many are aware, the rules are a result of Governor John Kasich’s task force formed in 2011 to address Ohio’s water quality issues. It will be interesting to follow how the draft legislation unfolds, following this unusually brief comment period.

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